What? It’s been four years since I’ve posted about my favorite Christmas repertoire to teach. Time for an update! I was happy to see that some of my favorites from 2013 have stood the test of time and are still beloved by students in 2017 (only four years, I know).
For beginning students I usually stick to the method Christmas books. I find that beginners like to play as many Christmas songs as possible since it is the first time they have been able to play Christmas songs. It’s like a kid in a candy shop! I give them all the candy they want. 🙂
For students who have been playing awhile, this is my Christmas favorites list:
Robert Vandall’s Celebrated Christmas Solos series contains five books and are vintage Vandall. He is the master at taking well-known tunes and making them sound highly stylized no matter the level. Between all my students, almost every song in books 1-3 are played each year. Some of our favorites include: Deck the Halls (Book 1), almost every song in Book 2, God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen (Book 3), Jingle Bell Rock (Book 3), Let It Snow! (Book 4), and Joy to the World (Book 5).
Melody Bober has written two collections of Christmas music: Christmas Memories and Popular Christmas Memories, and both are simply lovely. There are three books ranging from early intermediate to late intermediate in each collection. Student favorites include traditional pieces such as: “What Child Is This”, “O Come, All Ye Faithful”, “Jingle Bells”(great jazzy version), and from the popular books: “Believe” from Polar Express, and “There’s No Place Like Home for the Holidays”. These pieces feel like they have been lovingly crafted by a master composer.
I love using the Dozen a Day series in everyday teaching so much that I wrote a separate blog post about it. So it is natural that I would use the corresponding Christmas repertoire. I have used the Preparatory and Mini Christmas books. Both of these books are designed for beginners and are especially great for students who have had some experience using Dozen a Day. A lot of the technical exercises in the books are incorporated into the solo Christmas pieces. This means that these pieces are easy to teach and to learn since the concepts are familiar.
This series and the companion series “In Recital with Popular Christmas Music” each contain six books from early elementary to late intermediate levels. The pieces are stylistically arranged by leading composers and edited by Helen Marlais. I like these books because there is so much information for the teacher including leveling, musical concepts covered in each book, and technical skills required for each level. The pieces can be used for a sing along or a solo performance, they sometimes contain teacher duets, and most books have at least one or two same-level duet parts. You can also download free recordings of these pieces.
You can order these Christmas pieces from the Piano Pronto website in book format delivered through the mail or you can download them to print on your own printer. The Christmas Classics Volumes 1 and 2 are a good value for the money – there are fourteen pieces in volume one and twelve in volume two. Pieces in these collections are lyrical and lovely. The left hand accompaniment usually follow a note-fifth-octave pattern, which is especially useful for students who may be a little weak in reading bass clef.
Jazzy Jingles Volumes 1 and 2 are also a good value for the money. Some of the arrangements are definitely written in a strong jazz style, some are a mix of traditional styling plus jazz nuances. We especially love “Noel Nouvelet” in volume 1 and “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” in volume 2.
I think we should all stand up and cheer for Susan Paradis. Her selection of pre-reading and primer music is outstanding. Her “Jingle Bells” pre-reading song is used by every student of mine who begins lessons in September. Their faces light up and they can’t wait to play the song for parents and family because they love it so much.
Linus and Lucy
Definitely a perennial favorite. One of the best arrangements of this piece is found in Piano Adventures Popular Repertoire 2B. Although this is not technically a Christmas piece, my students enjoy hearing it and performing it at our annual Christmas party. I have a student playing the more advanced version this year and she’s loving it.
Music by Anne Crosby Gaudet has long been a staple in my studio. Her pieces are engaging and fun for students. Chord Town Christmas is great because – lead sheets! Some of my late beginner/early intermediate students would rather learn to play the melody and make up their own left hand accompaniment. They love the creativity that lead sheets allow. This books provides a nice collection of Christmas melodies and a systematic approach to adding accompaniment. Gaudet also includes ideas for adding an introduction and an ending.
Some beginning students have specific ideas of what they want to play for Christmas. Generally, I try to find music for them if I can. However, sometimes it’s hard to find specific Christmas music for students who are still pre-reading or have just started learning to read on-staff. When this occurs, if at all possible I will try to teach their requested piece by rote. Some of the pieces requested this year have been Linus and Lucy, Silent Night and O Holy Night. Usually I will write a little map of how to play the piece so that they won’t draw a blank at home. I use my handy-dandy keyboard stamp to show hand positions. We will usually work through the piece little by little, and I will write down what we are doing as we do it. This makes the piece far less intimidating as we work through it together.
All the links included above are for the purpose of identification. I do not receive any financial gain if you buy these books through the links. Just wanted to make it easier for you!
What is your favorite Christmas repertoire?